Sweet 16! Today, September 18th, is Jackie's birthday and we've had chocolate cake for breakfast and look forward to Chinese food for dinner. (Meantime she's begun another day at fashion school. But after our dog's recent drama, and Jackie's hands-on response, I think she'd make a great veterinarian! Read on, in today's French infused story column....
un épillet (ay-pee-leh)
: foxtail or grass seed
Ever found an épillet on your dog? Comment here.
Bescherelle conjugation guide. "This is without a doubt the definitive guide to conjugation of French verbs... an indispensible reference and not overwhelming for beginning students." Order it here.--M. Savoir (Amazon reviewer)
Audio File and Example Sentence: Listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or wav file
Lorsqu'un chien se met brusquement à se secouer les oreilles au printemps ou en été, penche la tête, refuse qu'on le touche… il y a probablement un épillet là-dessous !
In spring or summer, when a dogs begins abruptly to shake its ears, lower its head, and refuse to be touched... there is probably a foxtail there beneath!
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
On Monday I picked up Jackie from the bus stop and enjoyed a lively conversation with our soon-to-be 16-year-old. Driving home, we talked about motivation, about keeping on top of things, and how all this helps in pursuing one's dreams. It was refreshing to see how receptive Jackie was, vs. our sometimes draining dialogues which make me feel like such a nag, and leave my testy daughter feeling guilty, too.
Despite the renewed mother-daughter complicity, our life is good outlook was challenged sooner than expected. Arriving home, Jackie agreed to feed the dogs and help bring in the laundry on the line and fold it. Instead of grumbling, she approached her daily 15 minute chore (part of a new routine this school year!) willingly.
"That's my girl!" I cheered, "and thanks--I really appreciate it!" Even Braise, our golder retriever, was in a good mood, and we laughed as she jumped and danced while waiting for her croquette dinner to be served.
Then suddenly Braise fell to the ground and began yelping in pain. We watched as she mowed her head across the gravel, her cries growing more insistent. When we got her to stand up, she couldn't walk a straight line, but advanced crookedly across the yard--all the while lowering her left ear. And when she suddenly began shaking her head, as dogs do their bodies, after a bath--we realized something was amiss.
Jackie was posed and calm as she held Braise close and instructed me to have a look inside our dog's ear.
"OK, OK! Here we go....." the least I could do was to mirror my daughter's composure; just as important, we didn't want to be a ball of nerves in front of our suffering dog.
Indeed, animals are so sensitive--and intelligent. In contrast to the wild cries and head shaking pain, Braise remained as still as a monument, modeling a quiet bravery that hinted at the delicateness of the situation.
"It must be excruciating, the pain!" Jackie remarked, as I peered into Braise's ear, pulling and prodding to get a closer look. But all I saw was dirt--the kind I should have been regularly cleaning out. Now guilty feelings intermingled with all the worry.
As the moments passed, without another complaint from our dog, we nurtured a growing hope that maybe whatever had "gotten" her had somehow disappeared.
"Maybe it was only the beginning of an ear infection?" I said to Jackie.
"Peut-être," Jackie hoped, and we held our breaths as we slowly released Braise from our grip.
Our brave patient took a few uncertain steps, as though she herself were nursing the same espoir. Only she didn't make it far before she fell over, beside the withering lavender bush.
Seeing Braise disoriented like that, we were sick to our stomachs with worry. We watched helplessly as Braise plowed her head across the gravel, her muffled cries rising in her dusty wake.
Something was horribly wrong.
"Jean-Marc!" I shouted up to the second floor, where Jean-Marc was working in his office. A moment later four of us were careening down the road, to the veterinarians. Jean-Marc had asked Jackie to stay behind, but our daughter insisted Braise needed her comfort and assurance.
Quelle chance! The vet was still working at 7pm, and she welcomed us into her office.
Jackie and I tried to heave Braise onto the steel examination table, when Jean-Marc waved us aside and picked up our clinic-phobic dog. "Allez, hop, up you go!" I could see Braise's hair falling in a sheer layer across the steel surface beneath her--so terrified is she of doctor's offices.
When the vet warned that our dog must remain completely still, Jean-Marc steadied her in a head lock and I hugged her body tight. Jackie murmured assurances: Bravo! C'est bien, Braise! T'inquiète pas, mon chien! C'est bientôt fini!
We all watched as the vet directed the special tweezers into Braise's oreille. She too was impressed by Braise's bravery. "Most dogs would go crazy about now."
"She wants us to help her," I said, remembering back to the scene at home. Braise would have let me stick forceps in her ears, so desperate was she; her quiet obedience was such a contrast to her throbbing pain, making her message loud and clear: do what you need to do to fix this! Her composure was remarkable. It was as though she had gone to another place in her brain--doggy nirvana--where she was waiting out the traumatic moment.
"Voilà!" The vet pulled out the so-called torpedo of death, and cleared up one or two idées fausses, or rumors, in the process. "It is rare that this would kill a dog, she said, offering the bit of broken foxtail for our viewing. "But they can be dangerous. It's not just the ears they menace, they are often found in between the fingers and toes... " (This helpful tip was followed by a demonstration, in which the vet collected a dozen more broken foxtails from between Braise's paws!)
"The danger here," she said, is when they pierce the skin and travel through the body... sometimes puncturing the lungs!"
The vet encouraged us to cut back the grasses on our property and to check our dogs every day. It would be extra work, given we have two large and furry golden retrievers, but I could just add that to the kids chore list. And of course, I would do my part, too. Living here in the countryside, it would take a family effort to keep back those lurking torpedos... but the good news was, we now had a wonderful new veterinarian, just around the corner.
"Torpedoes of death" -- it's a chilling term, but I learned so much from Carla Jackson's article on Hordeum murinum or "Hare Barley" and how it menaces man's best friend.
More Photos from France
If you can't make it to France just now... we've got you covered: enjoy these virtual tours of some of my favorite villages in Provence and beyond.
The village of Grignan is known for its famous resident (Madame de Sevigny) and for its roses--but don't tell that to the valerian flowers, which shout their presence from the very rooftops.
Another Grignan resident.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety